The week after my husband died, I started obsessing about a head stone. I went so far to go to a memorial stone place near our home. In those early days everything I did was in his honor, to my mind anyway. I just wanted to honor him in any and every way. As I was driving over to the memorial stone place I realized that there was absolutely no way that I could use granite for his headstone, absolutely no way.
You see, Jeremy and I met in college where we studied Geological Sciences. In September 1994 we attended a The New England Intercollegiate Geologic field trip, to Maine. This was so far before we were us, so far. And at this time we were friendly, not yet friends, but cordial. We ended up on the same trip on a rainy Saturday at the Monson Slate Quarry. There were many people at the quarry that day, and all of us, men and women alike, were simply amazed at the fore arms of the tour guide. You see, he used a jack hammer every single day. He looked like Popeye! He would throw pieces of slate to at the wall of the quarry to show us specific geologic structures. And each time he asked us to look at something, he hit it. Every. single. time. It was beyond impressive.
No one who was on that field trip ever forgot the beauty of that slate. When Jeremy and I were married, we would dream about of having a sink made from their slate. Jeremy's Aunt and Uncle have a beautiful sink made out of that very slate. Just gorgeous.
So as I was driving to the memorial stone place and realized that granite was not an option, the memory of our dream, the beauty of the slate and the meaning behind using the stone to honor my husband, well it was right. The woman at the store, did not have a lot of experience with slate and really preferred the Pennsylvania slate over the black slate of the Monson Slate Quarry. And "Besides, " she said, "it would take at least two years to have the stone quarried." I was simply stunned. It was important to me to have a place, other than a spot in the ground, for our children to visit, a true physical marker. I left the memorial stone place empty handed save a few brochures, which I promptly threw in the trash.
When I was unable to sleep that night, I started searching the Internet for the Monson Slate Quarry, hoping that this quarry had not been closed down, as often happens to small family owned quarries. I kept searching and would hit a dead end. I would change my search words and hit more dead ends. Then I found a craftsman who works almost exclusively in slate and he works and lives in Maine.
I called him the next day while I was at our friends house, I asked him if I could tell him my story, he graciously obliged. Remember I was, at most, two weeks out from my husband's very sudden and very unexpected death. He was warm, interested and very very eloquent. I corresponded with him over the next several months and when I was in Maine visiting family, I decided that I would make the trip to his studio.
I arrived at his studio after an hour and half ride, during which I heard music that reminded me of my husband, I believe them to be signs. His studio does not have a ladies room, so in keeping with my geology background, I asked if the property around his studio was his and ducked around back and did my business.
Jeremy would have liked this gentleman very much. He was extremely well read and versed in many of the classics. And his name, Douglas Coffin. Yes, Coffin. The irony, I know.
We talked about Jeremy, he shared with me how much he loves working with families on memorializing their loved ones. He urged me to walk around cemeteries and read epitaphs. He told of stone for a mother and her infant, he was so moved by the words that, after all of these years, still can touch the heart of another. He said, carving letters, words into stone is extremely powerful. This is an art, a craft, a calling.
After our visit, we continued to correspond until I had decided upon an epitaph. It is so very hard to sum up the life of your husband, your soul mate, your best friend, the father of your children in a few lines. One of the hardest things to do and to do to honor your loved one.
One year and three months after I lost my husband, I received the proof of the headstone. A few edits and then approval. I fell apart hard.
This week, one year, six months and 3 weeks after I lost Jeremy Eschelbacher, I received a picture of the final product.
It is magnificent.